What I want to talk about is that things are always perfect and it can’t get any better, life is wonderful! I love to talk about things being magnificent and sublime. I thoroughly enjoy those moments, sitting with others, basking in the glory of all that is good, true and beautiful. When I do, I can feel my body literally lightening up. Everything around me is glowing. I never want to lose those most precious moments of celebration.
But what do I do with the times when things are breaking down, when they feel less than sublime? The human part of me wants to say, “Oh no, that can’t be happening!” That human part wants to put everything back together again, and sometimes I try to do whatever I can to make that happen, just like Humpty Dumpty. I think that if I have all the pieces I should be able to organize them in such a way to make it “work.” I put so much energy into putting pieces together, that I wind up resisting the breaking down.
And what if the breakdown is just as much a part of my journey as the wonderful times? And what if the breakdown is the most important part of my transformational path, something to be embraced and not resisted? The reality is a good percentage of our life is always breaking down, and it doesn’t mean God isn’t at work. On the contrary, it means God is absolutely at work, and maybe I just don’t want to participate in that part of the divine activity.
My own experiences of breakdowns are very telling. A fall from love, moving far away from friends and family, betrayal of colleagues, loss of my beloved, and illness have all broken me open, much in the way lightning splits a tree. The key is to know what I believe about a breakdown, to know what the conversation rattling around in my mind is around this divine activity.
Throughout my life, each breakdown opened me wider, like the way water carves the Grand Canyon to be ever deeper and expansive. The breakdown I find myself in right now feels and looks like shattered glass, and I want to find all the shards and put them back together, but there are too many pieces. Once again, I am trying to make things fit, to make them work like they once did. In trying to do this, I wind up closing off what life has opened wide in me, as a result of a breakdown. It is, as the Sufi Hazrat Inayat Khan says, “God breaks the heart again and again and again until it stays open.”
So here I am in the midst of a breakdown, and the middle of this journey, or any journey, usually is the toughest – I call it the hallway of transformation. I have left the old doorway, but I don’t quite see the new one. The middle time is the hardest, it can be the darkest because I am dying to the old ways, and haven’t quite been born to the new ways, so I can’t quite see my way. This is when an invitation is extended to walk in trust, which pushes me to the edge of my knowing because I want a guarantee. And yet, today, all I get is trust, trust my soul can see in the darkness.
I don’t wake one morning and look in the mirror, and say, “Wow, will you look at that? I’m all transformed! TADA! Boy, I’m sure glad that’s over!” When I am in the hallway, I have to trust, knowing that if I am not vulnerable, willing to show my flaws – if I am not opened by this experience, there can be no transformation because I am closed down to the possibility of contact with what is yet to be, shut off from the possibility of transformation, of new life. This is the darkened hallway, and even as I look out my window, I can see mother-nature is in the hallway too. Under the current of a cold winter, new life is working its way to the surface.
But life is a really series of breakdowns, which essentially call me to open wider and wider, to go deeper than I have ever gone before. At every turn in my hallway, there is an experience that will raise me up, and wear me thin until there is very little, if anything, remaining that I recognize. And in that moment I can allow the breakdown to debilitate me, or strengthen me in order to find my way to the surface too, just like mother-nature. It depends on whether my understanding of life has been deepened, and if I have become willing to keep my heart open, allowing those pieces of shattered glass to lay where they are, knowing I am midwifing a new creation, a new precious moment of celebration.
What I have today is trust, it is the light that leads me through the darkened hallway, it is the practice of living and breathing a new life, a transformed life, one I couldn’t see from the shore I was standing on. It is how I find my way between the depths of my pure being and the danger of experiences that are painful. It is how mother earth finds her way each spring, for the old must break down for the new to be born. Spring is a time of intentional renewal, of hospicing the old and midwifing the new so that I might live as my truest self, basking in the glory of all that is good, true and beautiful.